US, Brazil partnership grows despite opposition

By Megan Skauge | January 12, 2009
Since a memorandum of understanding to advance cooperation on biofuels was signed in March 2007 by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, a growing number of new partnerships between the U.S. and Brazil have been signed recently. Meanwhile, opposing groups are pleading to keep the U.S. independent from imported energy.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer led a U.S. delegation to an International Conference on biofuels in So Paulo, Brazil, in November. The delegation wants to maintain a strong relationship with Brazil for the development of renewable energy. "This will allow more flexibility for farmers to get involved and reduce the dependency on one or two feedstock sources," Schafer said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory is collaborating with Brazil on second-generation biofuels research. NREL signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate for two years with Petrobras, the largest energy company in Latin America. The memorandum formalizes a previous verbal agreement to work together on renewable energy projects.

In opposition, Americans for American Energy and the Congress for Racial Equality said they would rather see the U.S. energy focus remain in the U.S. They are demanding action from Congress for more American energy production. "Our focus is on speaking in favor of American-produced energy of all types," said Greg Schnacke, AAE president and chief executive officer. "Being reliant on our own energy helps our economy and puts people to work. It just makes sense." The group hoped to introduce a new bill, the Americans for American Energy Act, to Congress in January. The legislation would establish the American Energy Trust Fund, which specifically allocates funding for biofuels and other energy types.

In addition, the Indy Racing League is being criticized for its decision to partner with a Brazilian group for its 2009 season. APEX-Brasil, a Brazilian trade association, will be the official ethanol supplier of the IRL and the Indianapolis 500. In response, Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen expressed his group's concern in a letter to Terry Angstadt, IRL president of the commercial division. "The decision to bypass the more than 180 ethanol biorefineries across our country in favor of a tanker ship from So Paulo is an affront to America's farmers who have worked to enhance economic opportunities for rural communities, and all Americans who have fought and are fighting for our energy independence."

Growth Energy, a former IRL fuel sponsor, also expressed its disappointment in the decision. "I understand that the IndyCar Series is no different than any other business entity in tough economic times," said Growth Energy Executive Director Toni Nuernberg. "The need to secure sponsors is of utmost importance. However, a decision based solely on financial issues misses the mark. The U.S. ethanol industry has transformed the energy landscape in this country, while providing jobs and pumping money back into the American economy. I sincerely hope the IRL will reconsider its decision."